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Jump start for electric vehicle industry? Pritzker touts job training now, business incentives soon

The Electric Vehicle Energy Storage training program dovetails with the state’s goal of getting one million electric vehicles on the road by 2030, which was included in energy legislation that passed the General Assembly last month.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker discusses a new electric vehicle energy storage training program at Heartland Community College on Thursday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker discusses a new electric vehicle energy storage training program at Heartland Community College on Thursday.
Blue Room Stream

As part of his plan to boost the number of electric vehicles on the road, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday announced a training program for the manufacture and repair of those cars to “attract people to some of the best paying jobs in our economy.”

The Electric Vehicle Energy Storage training program in downstate Bloomington is designed to lure jobs to Illinois and teach students the technical skills needed for the electric cars.

To further that goal, Pritzker is also hoping to provide incentives to lure manufacturers of electric vehicle charging stations and other related businesses in the industry.

“Illinois is at the center of the action for investment and growth during this economic recovery, and nowhere is that more true than when it comes to electric vehicle manufacturing,” Pritzker said.

“We’re working to double down on our investments in electric vehicle manufacturing and suppliers. With the legislative package that we’re putting forward Illinois will stake out our ground in this booming industry and bring thousands of new jobs to our state.”

Pritzker was joined by state legislators, college officials at Heartland Community College and electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian for the announcement at the school’s campus in Bloomington.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker answers questions at a news conference at Heartland Community College on Thursday. 
Gov. J.B. Pritzker answers questions at a news conference at Heartland Community College on Thursday.
Blue Room Stream

The program is intended to dovetail with the state’s goal of getting one million electric vehicles on the road by 2030, which was included in energy legislation that passed the General Assembly last month.

Heartland President Keith Cornille said the “first-of-its-kind” program will provide “cutting edge training.” In the next five years the community college will train more than 360 people in energy storage techniques, Cornille said.

The first set of students in the energy storage program began their training during the fall semester. Once they complete the program, students will be able to go through apprenticeship programs or straight into jobs in the electric vehicle industry.

Careers include advanced manufacturing, final assembly and service careers focused on inspection, diagnosis of problems and repair for electric vehicles or maintenance and support of battery systems in residential, commercial, and utility scale applications, according to Heartland’s web site on the program.

The 2022 Rivian R1S, an electric midsize SUV from the startup American electric vehicle manufacturer.
The 2022 Rivian R1S, an electric midsize SUV from the startup American electric vehicle manufacturer.
Rivian Automotive via AP

After months of negotiations, Pritzker signed legislation overhauling the state’s energy sector last month, calling the measure a “giant leap forward” for Illinois.

The energy legislation included incentives for those looking to buy electric vehicles.

But the governor has also talked about an incentive package for electric vehicle manufacturers as part of boosting the state’s green energy sector.

State Rep. Dave Vella, D-Rockford, said the language of that bill could be released as soon as Friday.

“In the last energy bill, we passed a fairly substantial electric vehicle tax credit for consumers, now what we’re doing is we’re trying to bring electric vehicle manufacturers to the area,” Vella said. “This is a fairly wide-reaching economic package that is intended to bring in a lot of business, jobs and investment into the state of Illinois.”

Vella has worked with the governor’s office for the past three to four months on the legislation, which would provide tax credits to manufacturers of electric vehicle charging stations, batteries and small parts in an effort to draw more businesses to the state and grow the electric automaker sector. The specifics are still being ironed out.

During Thursday’s news conference on the training program, state House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch expressed support for ensuring “Illinois continues to be a leader in the nation when it comes to green energy.

“We fought hard, and we’re going to continue to fight hard to continue to put Illinois at the forefront,” Welch said.

Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch speaks at a news conference at Heartland Community College on Thursday. 
Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch speaks at a news conference at Heartland Community College on Thursday.
Blue Room Stream

A spokeswoman for the speaker declined to comment on the additional legislation Vella is working on because Welch’s team has not yet seen the official language of the proposed incentive package.

A spokesman for state Senate President Don Harmon said in a statement the upper legislative chamber is “open to and interested in Governor Pritzker’s ideas” to build out the state’s green energy economy.

“The caucus is eager to see if it can come together during the abbreviated fall session,” the spokesman said.